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CAROL DOES CAPPADOCIA

April 30th, 2011 No comments

Living on a boat means that nothing can be planned too far in advance.  While still in Montana we booked a land tour to Cappadocia, a not to miss natural phenomenon in Turkey.  It was to be a mini-vacation—five days on land to see the Cappadocia region and all it offered.  In this case, the best laid plans went by the board when a small electrical fire on Destiny just two days before we were to leave required Kent to remain aboard to sort through the electrical issues with a professional.  Thankfully we were on board when some wires shorted.   Had it occurred two days later while we were away we may have lost the boat.

Since the boat would be torn apart with the work and I would be “under foot” so to speak, I decided to go to Cappadocia without Kent.  Fortunately, I had friends scheduled on the same trip—Jorge and Isabel on Excalibur had been with us since the Caribbean 1500.

We left at daybreak on Monday, April 11th for a 10 plus hour drive to Konya where we would spend the first night.

Sunrise--Day One

Along the way we travelled through the Lake District and saw several crater lakes that are incredibly deep with actual beaches.

Crater Lake Salda. . .

has a sandy beach.

has a sandy beach.

Not to miss an opportunity, our tour guide Tas decided that the tour of a cave would be a good way to work up an appetite before we arrived in Isparta for lunch.  The Burdur Valiligi Cave has a man-made walkway for easy viewing and contains two underground lakes. 

Cave walkway is marble and well lit

with amazing rock formations. . .

and an underground lake so crystal clear that you could see rocks through the water.

After lunch in Isparta, we arrived in Konya the home of the Whirling Dervishes.

The next day included a tour of the Mevlana Museum which is the former home of the Dervishes and a shrine to its founder Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207-1273). 

Mevlana Museum, Konya

The religion Sufism has been banned in contemporary Turkey as being extreme, and is practiced only in very private settings, but the custom and beliefs are very much a part of Turkish history and is well documented at the museum.  There are displays that show the life and practices of these early religious men.  Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside the museum which now houses the remains of Mevlana and his many followers.

We also toured the nearby Selimiye Mosque, built in Ottoman times and still in use today.  The signs of spring are everywhere in the bright spring flowers and flowering trees.

Spring has arrived in Konya

By late morning we were back aboard our minibus enroute to Cappadocia.  Much to our surprise we travelled through snow flurries as we headed to higher elevations.

Snow approaching. . .before long the ground was turning white

We made a brief stop at the remains of an old caravan stop, an ancient fortification that was host to travelers making their way through these barren lands.  Inside the walls they could find food and water for both people and animals, and were protected from marauding bandits.

Camel Caravan Stop

Our first stop upon arriving in the region known as Cappadocia was the Uschisar Castle.  This natural rock formation sits high above one of many valleys of fairy chimneys carved by wind and water erosion in lava flows from early volcanoes. 

In the beginning, there was a volcano. . .now snow capped peaks.

The snow capped peaks in the distance are the remnants of the volcanoes that produced the lava and soft rock that over time has created the fairy chimneys.  The soft rock and soil eroded leaving a hard cap on tall pillars to form the fairy chimneys.

Uchisar Castle

From the top of Uschisar Castle you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the valley surrounding it and the many fairy chimneys. 

My first view of fairy chimneys from top of Uchisar Castle. . .

included cave houses and sweeping views of the valley.

You can also watch the weather approaching, and we timed our visit just right to avoid the snow flurries that had followed us.

The snow was following us. . .but the flurries arrived as we boarded the bus.

One thing that caught my eye was the following sign:

Turkish Aphrodisacs anyone?

As we were leaving the castle there was a camel photo-op which I couldn’t resist.

He was friendlier than he looks. . .I mounted by step ladder!

It is suggested by one writer that the first inhabitants of this area arrived about 10,000 years ago.  Man took advantage of the soft rock to create homes and churches in the caves and fairy chimneys that dot the landscape. 

Fairy chimneys as far as the eye can see.

From Uschisar Castle we went to the Old Greek Village of Cavusin which was occupied until the population exchange between Turkey and Greece after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923.  Climbing up through the village we saw one of the oldest churches in Cappadocia—The Church of St. John the Baptist.

The ancient village of Cavusin. . .

is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in Cappadocia

After a long day of traveling and sightseeing, we were headed for Star Cave Hotel in Goreme, where as the name suggests we were all housed in rooms that are carved into rock.  Sitting up high over the Town of Goreme, the hotel is perfectly situated to enjoy the view.

The highlight of the trip started predawn the next day when about half of our group of 13 (I was the “unlucky” thirteen since Kent couldn’t come), got up at 5 a.m. to partake in a sunrise hot air balloon tour of the valley.  It was still dark when we arrived at the headquarters for the company we were booked with, but there was excitement in the air, as we could see from there balloons being filled for the adventure that was to come.

Balloons begin to rise as dawn does. . .

Personally, I have wanted to ride in a hot air balloon for years.  To do it in this unique location made it even more special and I was sad that Kent was not there to enjoy it with me.

The gas flame that produces the hot air rises 10 ft. in the air. . .

as seen from our basket in picture above and from the one launching next to ours.

Watching the balloons being readied was fascinating, and I was amazed at how large both balloons and baskets were.  The basket would carry our pilot (a very handsome and capable young Turk) and up to 24 passengers in four separate open compartments.  There were six of us from the tour in one compartment.  The basket was a heavy woven wicker with padding along the sides and hand holds that were used for bracing upon landing.

Our balloon pilot, Yasar obviously enjoys his work.

Every basket held up to 24 people, and 150 euros each times 40 or more balloons, this is a very profitable business.

As we lifted off, the valley was filled with colorful balloons, some of which bore the advertising for major companies.

Who knew Kia was this big in Turkey?

We estimated that there were forty or more balloons up on the morning we flew and the sight of them hovering over the fairy chimneys was breathtaking.

Balloons over Capadoccia

The skill of our pilot was obvious as he maneuvered us right up to a cliff face and then gently lifted us up and over the top, clearing by inches. 

A little too close for comfort. . .

but safely over and on the other side.

We swooped down among the fairy chimneys, skirted the roof tops of local villages and came a little too close to one cemetery before climbing up high and over a mountain face known as Rose Valley.

We did not want to end up here!

Rose Valley in the distance

Not all the baskets made it as far as we did.  Vans towing trailers followed the path of the balloons based on wind and thermal conditions and were at the ready to load up passengers and basket for transport back to their starting points.

Vans track the balloons and change direction as the balloon does. . .

so the crew can meet them as they land.

When we landed, I hardly realized we were on the ground until a couple hands and a face popped up above the basket.  For landing we were required to keep our heads below the basket top and brace between the two side of the basket—feet on one side and back on the other.

Once we were safely on the ground we could watch other baskets land.

Our voyage was celebrated on the ground with champagne, liberally laced with fruit juice and the presentation of our “certificates.

At 7:30 a.m. we were glad to have mostly fruit juice and a splash of champagne to celebrate!

By 8:15 a.m. we are back at the Star Cave Hotel just in time for Turkish breakfast and another full day of touring.  By this time the adrenalin was pumping and I was ready for anything.

Entrance to my room at Star Cave Hotel. . .

and view from my window.

Ironically, our next stop was Love Valley—just my luck, I’m single and going to “love valley.”  Oh well, I was in good company.  Friends Jorge and Patrick had promised Kent to look after me.  

It didn’t take long to figure out how the valley got its name.

Love Valley. . .

need I say more.

Tour group at Love Valley

After exploring Love Valley we headed for the Goreme Open Air Museum, with its many Rock Churches.  Early Christians arrived in Cappadocia seeking refuge from the Arabs and there are some 400 early Christian churches (6th to 9th Century) that have been discovered, many of them very small and in or near Goreme.

Welcome to Goreme Open Air Museum

Churches are carved into the many fairy chimneys

at Goreme's museum.

Although pictures can’t be taken in side most of the churches, the site is very beautiful. 

Friends Dave, Patrick & Jorge have little fun while waiting to tour a cave church

Architecture of ancient cave church is exposed at Goreme

Having been up since 5 a.m. and on the go, I was very ready for the special lunch that our tour guide, Tas, said was mandatory.  He was taking us to a cave restaurant—what else!

Our cave lunch was served family style. . .

with a main course of succulent lamb stew.

Uranos Restaurant was indeed in a cave—a very luxurious cave, I might add.  The waiters—all men in traditional Turkish style—were very attentive and the food plentiful and tasty.  By this time, I felt like I was “eating my way through Cappadocia”, as it seemed that big meals were part of everyday.

This part of Cappodocia is noted for fine ceramics and Tas had arranged a pottery demonstration for us at Cavusin Seramik, one of the most famous pottery producers.  After seeing how an elaborate wine jug was made, they called for a volunteer, and I was voluteered by the group to try my hand at the wheel–after mounting the camel I guess they thought I would try anything. 

First we watched a pro at work. . .

then I tried my hand, but the result looked like something from Love Valley.

After a brief rest at the hotel we were off again—this time it was Turkish Night.  More food and traditional entertainment.

Another cave restaurant for Turkish night with friends, Patrick, Chrissy, Isabel & Jorge

One of the highlights of the evening was a performance by Whirling Dervishes.  This was not a religious ceremony, but rather professional performers who demonstrate the Sema ceremony in an abbreviated form.  Watching them twirl to exotic music had a mystical quality.

The evening began solemnly. . .

a mystical journey. . .

said to bring the spirit to perfect harmony. . .

with the universe.

 Then we saw various forms of folk dancing and a mock wedding ceremony, followed by the “star” of the show, a belly dancer.

Turkish folk dancing. . .

in colorful costumes. . .

and of course a buxom belly dancer.

By the end of day three, I am bordering on exhaustion and we have one more day of touring and then a full-day drive back to Marmaris.  Not only that but I have already taken a thousand pictures.

On day four we visit Derinkuyu, one of 36 underground cities that have been discovered in Cappadocia.  The underground cities were safe havens for early Christians and shelters from raids.  Derinkuyu has stables, schools, kitchens, a church and a baptism pool—and is considered the 9th wonder of the ancient world.

Some of the spaces were quite large. ..

like this dining area, and others

Our visit took us up to 1500 ft. below ground through a series of tunnels and walkways, some of which were so low I had to bend at the waist to pass through them.  This is not a place for anyone the least bit claustrophobic. 

Here I am in the underground city of Derinkuyu. . .

where some of the tunnels were so small you practically crawled through.

The underground city covers 4 sq. kilometers, is 7 levels below ground and housed approximately 10,000 people.  It was connected by tunnels to another underground city over 7 km away. 

Gladly above ground again, we were off to our next destination—Soganli Valley which had more fairy chimneys and Rock Churches. 

Fairy Castle in Soganli Valley. . .

I was beginning to feel as I did after several days in Florence—totally overwhelmed by everything that I had seen.  However, every place we went was unique in its own way.

a famous cave church. . .

with decorative painting that shows centuries of wear. . .

frescoes. . .

and Greek graffiti from the 1800's

Soganli Valley was mostly barren with only a few fairy chimneys, but many of them contained the remnants of churches with frescoes and carved pillars. 

The Domed Church. . .

has frescoes on the interior of the dome. . .

and carved pillars on lower level.

We hiked along the valley and then arrived in a small village where we had an outdoor lunch.  More food, but then by that time we had worked up an appetite.

Hiking trail in Sogani Valley. . . on way to lunch in village.

After lunch, we had one more important stop at the Carpet Weavers Cooperative.  The cooperative is government sponsored and trains people in the skills of carpet making that make Turkish carpets some of the most valuable in the world.  Interestingly they only teach women to weave the carpets, and the selling floor is predominated by men.

At the Carpet Weavers Cooperative we saw rugs being woven on large looms. . .

and some pieces would take more than a year to make.

Some of the most valuable carpets are made from silk thread that is made on the premises.

These bags contain silk cocoons,

which are boiled. . .

then woven into silk strands for weaving.

Then to the showroom where we saw the final product.

I had no intention of buying a rug, but when I found one that was the perfect size and color for the boat salon, I negotiated a price that I couldn’t refuse.  Now I have an antique Turkish rug with a certificate of authenticity.

Lunch had made a few people sleepy and they begged off the remaining afternoon itinerary, but Isabel and I and a couple other hearty souls decided to keep going. 

After a while the fairy chimneys start to look alike, except that those at Pasabagi are among the tallest and are multi-coned.

Pasabagi Fairy Chimneys are famous for their double cones.

Last stop on the itinerary is Imagination Valley, so-called because of the animal and other forms that can be seen among the fairy chimneys.

Is it a camel?

Is it a serpent?

Is it a serpent?

. . .overlooking Imagination Valley, you decide.

After another dinner of traditional Turkish food, and a good night’s rest we are up and off to Marmaris at 9 a.m. the next day.  As I leave my cave room, I am treated to one final view of balloons over Cappadocia.

Early morning view from Star Cave Hotel, Goreme

Returning to Marmaris, two more meals later, I’m back to Destiny (now put back together) and Kent by 10 p.m.  My head is spinning with all that I have seen, but all I really want to do is sleep.  “Home Sweet Boat”.

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TLOS: ON TOP OF THE WORLD

April 5th, 2011 No comments

While Kent toiled on the boat (meaning “did what he really enjoys“) I went off for a day tour to the ancient site of Tlos (also spelled Tilos).  A small group of cruisers got up at the crack of dawn to travel east a couple of hours by mini-bus.

Our first stop—for a hearty breakfast—was the small town of Gocek at the northern end of a large bay which is dotted with many small islands and anchorages on the west side of the Gulf of Fethiye.  We  anchored off this town last fall, but being here in spring is a different experience.  The town is basically deserted this time of year.

The quay at Gocek is quiet this time of year. . .

as is the restaurant where we had breakfast.

as is the restaurant where we had breakfast.

The sky seems more blue and the vegetation greener than when we left—no great surprise given that winter is the rainy season in this part of the world.  To reach Tlos from Gocek our mini-bus climbed up into the mountains, and eventually our view of the sea disappeared. 

The highway climbs along the coast. . .

Instead of the Mediterranean Sea, we were treated to a birdseye view of a valley that stretched as far as the eye could see in a patchwork of fields under cultivation.  There were fruit trees in blossom, and lemon trees laden with fruit.  The latter seemed strange given the early spring season, but then southern Turkey has a Mediterranean climate that allows palm trees to thrive along with the lemon trees.

The winding mountain road that travels to Tlos is barely wide enough for two cars to pass, and little traveled this time of year.  The views of the valley as we ascended were amazing.

The Xanthus Valley as seen from Tlos

Tlos sits at the precipice of a mountain with majestic views in all directions over the Xanthus Valley.  It is noteworthy for its 2,000 year history that reflects early Roman architecture as well as beautifully preserved examples of rock tombs from the Lycian period. 

Not much survives of the stadium, and little more of the baths and amphitheater, but goats casually mill about the entrance to the tombs while an ancient Turkish herder sits nearby watching his flock 

A goat herder watches over his flock. . .

A goat herder watches over his flock. . .

as his goats graze their way through Lycian tombs.

A family surveys the ruins of the

A family surveys the ruins of the Roman stadium below.

Arches of the Roman bath. . .frame the fortress in the distance.

Arches of the Roman bath. . .frame the fortress in the distance.

We had viewed Lycian tombs before on our tour of the Dalyan River, but this site afforded the opportunity to climb up to the tombs and actually step inside.

Lycian tombs are carved in rock below the ruins of a Roman fort.

Up close and personal with Lycian tomb

While the site is impressive, particularly the tombs, this time of year the abundant wild flowers that cover the hillside and peek out from behind ancient ruins add so much to the experience.  Fields of daisies dance in the breeze, interspersed with a pop of red or purple as other wild flower species leave their mark.

Wildflowers line the paths. . .

blanket the hillside. . .

and hide. . .

and hide. . .

among the ruins.

Every ancient site has its amphitheater, and this was no exception.  While it was not as complete as some we have seen, the daisies sprouting among the ruins seemed to make up for it decay.

Many of the seats have been destroyed by weather and earthquakes. . .

but steps remain. . .

and remnants of the stage. . .

which bore magnificent carvings.

After several hours of exploring Tlos we stopped a short distance down the mountain for a lunch of mezes (Turkish appetizers) and trout.  The setting was beautiful and we ate poolside with views of the valley below.

Alfresco dining at The Mountain Lodge. . .

included mezes and fresh trout.

Gwen who organizes these trips takes pride in her “surprises” that are planned in the day, time permitting.   After lunch we were off again this time to Salinkent Gorge, a natural wonder that is a little off the beaten path.

The gorge is narrow with sheer walls on each side that block the sun.

This time of year the parking lot was empty and at first it appeared that access to the suspended walkway that allows pedestrian access to the gorge was closed.  Luckily, someone always appears when there is an opportunity to collect a few lira per person. 

Entering the gorge your eye is drawn up the soaring walls. . .

while your feet are firmly planted on a wooden walkway suspended over the churning water.

Walking along the wooden walkway as the water rushing through the gorge flows many feet below was exciting. 

Rushing water. . .

is turbulent and loud. . .

is turbulent and loud. . .

as waterfalls.

Because of the winter rains and the melting mountain snow, the gorge roars to life in early spring with a deafening sound.  The water comes through the gorge in powerful torrents, and spills from the rocks as small water falls.

We were told that during the summer you can actually wade up the gorge for some distance and lazily float back down, which is hard to imagine this time of year when white water rafting comes more to mind.

There is a never ending array of historic sites and natural wonders that make up Turkey.  Our next trip is to Capadoccia where we will stay in  a cave hotel.  Can’t wait.

Categories: Europe, Turkey Tags: